I feel like their is a war waging on the battlefront of my body. I’m not talking about the pain or fatigue I feel from fibromyalgia. I’m not talking about migraines, or mood disorders, or any of that.

I’m talking about the way medical providers (“Western”, alternative, and complementary), the media, drug companies, and even sometimes people from my everyday life try to co-opt decisions about what the best treatments are for my body. Often, they don’t agree with one another. Then I’m left stranded, trying to figure out what the best course of action is. It is not therapeutic, and it doesn’t help.

Some (not all) “Western”/modern medical providers are all about science by the books. I think fibromyalgia threatens them, because the diagnostic tools basically involve ruling out other things and then poking the patient in 18 places. If 11 out of the 18 hurt (divided in certain sectors of the body), then it’s fibromyalgia. Even though fibromyalgia has been documented as a real condition in countless places – and new clinical data shows that fMRI’s can pick up signs of fibromyalgia in the brain – many doctors are only now accepting that fibromyalgia is a real condition in the way that arthritis or diabetes is.

“This is the crux of it, the reason more than a handful of physicians have such disdain for FM and its sufferers: they don’t know how to see it, how to measure it or how to effectively treat it.  In short, FM is a mystery many physicians would rather not contemplate…. ‘As treatments have been developed that work fibromyalgia is being more widely accepted as a legitimate, scientifically credible disease.’ In other words, FM might become increasingly viewed as legitimate because physicians are becoming better able to do something definitive to attenuate the suffering.”

These are the words of medical doctors (MDs) who practice/research at Johns Hopkins and the University of Michigan. Wait, wait – the people who diagnosed me with this syndrome might not believe that it’s real? When I was first diagnosed, my rheumatologist basically gave me the following prognosis: you may never be able to work full time. We don’t really have any medications for this. Physical therapy might help. Have a nice day, see you in six months. (Note: I do not see that doctor anymore, and have found much better ones.) I did end up going on some medications that seem to help, which I’ve added to my cocktail of mood disorder medications.

Physical therapy most definitely helps, as do other more “alternative” or “complementary” medical practices. Reiki, light touch massage, integrative manual therapy, meditation, healing drumming…all of these things have helped enrich and improve my quality of life. They also help alleviate mental and physical suffering.

The problem is that there are skeptics in both sides. Western practitioners often don’t “believe” in reiki, because of lack of clinical trials. The same goes for a lot of other alternative/complementary techniques. And a lot of people I know from the alternative community have their own prejudices against Western medicine. There are too many side effects, it’s too intrusive, the drugs often do more harm than good. I am not saying that alternative medical practitioners urge me to go against the advice of my doctor. But when I tell people the medications I’m on – it’s quite a cocktail – there is sometimes a general pursing of the lips. A certain look in the eye that says, “I wouldn’t take all those chemicals.”

Ah yes, the Great Medication Debate. Western doctors often don’t like to prescribe pain medications, as they can be addictive. Emergency room doctors sometimes treat fibromyalgia patients as though they’re drug addicts. As already mentioned, alternative medical practitioners have their own skepticisms about the effectiveness of prescription medications. Meanwhile, I run across the occasional friend who says something glib like, “I really don’t like taking medications.” Guess what. I don’t like taking them either. I take them because they help, even though there are sometimes really terrible side effects.

So what’s a girl to do? I’ve received positive help from medical practitioners from all practices. I’ve also received some care that just hasn’t helped. My social support network is, for the most part, very supportive.

You know what would be really helpful? If I didn’t have to defend one set of medical practitioners or traditions to practitioners of another tradition. If they worked together, and I received holistic advice that integrated healing modalities from a range of traditions.

This is my body. MY body. If you are going to be my medical provider, treat it with respect. Please leave your personal baggage at the door.

(Note: I’m not targeting this at a specific person. So if you’re someone I know, and you’re wondering if this is about you, it’s not. ^_^)